Please keep reading to learn about how climate change affects the wine business and its leaders strive to prevent its effects. For over 8000 years, winemaking has been a part of Western culture. Wine has had a tremendous economic and social impact from ancient Mesopotamia to modern France.

Wine production has already extended across five continents, with hotspots in France, the United States, South Africa, Chile, and Australia. Agricultural sectors, such as wine production, can significantly impact the natural landscape’s vitality. 

The wine industry’s vast global reach makes it an incredibly compelling case study regarding environmental issues. In particular, examining the employment of market-based mechanisms in the wine business is critical for developing management techniques that promote environmental protection and economic development.

Does climate change affect wine industry
Does climate change affect wine industry ? | Image Credit – Pexels

The grapevine is one of the ancientest cultivated plants, and the process of creating wine has resulted in a lengthy and varied geographical and cultural history. Today’s viticultural zones for quality wine production are located in tiny geographical and climatic niches, putting them in more danger from short-term and long-term climate fluctuation and change than other crops grown on a larger scale.

The baseline climate determines a region’s overall wine style, and climate variability determines vintage quality variances. Changes in climatic circumstances, which influence both variability and average conditions, have the potential to affect wine styles.

As for changing levels of greenhouse gases and changes in Earth’s surface characteristics cause changes in the Earth’s radiation budget, atmospheric circulation, and hydrologic cycle, our understanding of climate change and its potential impacts has become increasingly crucial for viticulture and wine production.

Warming trends during the last century are asymmetric in terms of seasonal and diurnal cycles, with the most significant warming occurring in the winter and spring and at night. The impact of temperature trends on winter hardening potential, frost occurrence, and growing season lengths have been linked to agricultural production viability.

Correlating climate with grapes and wine industry

Cultivating wine in the Southern areas will be hampered by a lack of water or excessive temperatures. The plant’s growth significantly influences its ability to tolerate heat and drought, which depend on the soil in which the plants grow. Moderate water stress can be helpful in the production of fine wine, which is why vines have been grown on comparatively dry and unproductive soils in various locations of Southern Europe. The consequences of high temperatures and a shortage of water, on the other hand, will be magnified in such poor soils. Environmental conditions induce stress on the plant, which can alter the grapes and, as a result, the wine they produce.

Why does it need to rain for wine industry?

Vineyard grape vine
Vineyard grape vine | Image Credit – Pixabay

One of the primary resources needed in grape cultivation is water. Most of the water utilized in wine production is used for irrigation rather than winemaking. Despite this, grapes require a comparatively minimal amount of water compared to other crops. Numerous vintners advocate dry farming. Those that utilize irrigation to ensure a plentiful harvest might increase water efficiency by employing precision irrigation techniques.

In general, moderate water stress raises these chemicals’ concentrations in red grapes, which improves fruit quality. However, if a particular level of water stress is reached, these beneficial effects are said to vanish. Another issue brought on by climate change is a shortage of rain. Winters are drier and milder than in the past, with late frosts wreaking havoc on vineyards.

Furthermore, the grapes will absorb more water if it rains, diluting the tastes and throwing off the sugar/acid balance that strives for winemakers. When there is too much rain, the grape berries swell and even split, resulting in spoilage, mold, and mildew.

Hot wines due to temperature rise!

Optimal ripeness for wines
Optimal ripeness for wines | Image Credit – Pixabay

For Canadian winemakers, the warmer trend has produced several advantages. Grapes have a better chance of reaching optimal ripeness now, which has enhanced the wines’ quality and consistency. Growers are also experimenting with varietals that would have been difficult to ripen in the past, particularly reds that require extra time on the vine. Despite milder weather across the country, extreme winters remain the number one problem for Canadian winemakers. 

However, “severe” varies by area, as certain parts of the country have always seen worse winters than others. For example, in Quebec’s Montérégie, special precautions are needed to protect the vines when winter temperatures can reach the minus tens. Growers can bury them underground or pin them to the ground before covering them with a geotextile layer.

Webb et al. (2005) examined climate change scenarios for viticulture in Australia, finding that by 2070, temperatures in Australia are expected to rise by 1.0–6.0°C, increasing the number of hot days and decreasing frost risk, while precipitation changes are more variable but result in more significant growing season irrigation stress. Future temperature regimes have been linked to lower wine quality in Australia, with southerly and coastal shifts in production zones being the most likely alternative to sustaining viability.

Rising temperatures and decreasing precipitation are expected to pressure the vines’ phenological development and the essential water resources for irrigation and production in South Africa (Carter 2006). According to the findings, winemaking in South Africa is likely to become riskier and more expensive. The most likely consequences are changes in management practices to accommodate a shrinking water supply.

UV rays of high elevations

Burgundy’s Côte d’Or vines usually are between 755 and 1,300 feet above sea level. The best vineyards were traditionally thought to be on the well-drained mid-slope, a location elevated enough to catch most of the sunlight while remaining frost-free but not too high, windy, or exposed.

High elevation mountain and hillside vineyards receive more direct and concentrated sunlight — UV rays increase by 10-12 percent for every 1,000 feet gained in elevation – forcing the fruit to develop a thicker skin, resulting in greater color concentration and more assertive tannins.

Wine industry changing environment 

Excessive use of pesticides
Excessive use of pesticides | Image Credit – Pexels

Viticulture is not immune to the environmental issues that plague agriculture. Vineyards can pollute the soil and water with fertilizers, pesticides, and other chemicals used in grape production, harming the ecosystem. In addition, when new vineyards open for production, woodlands or wetlands are frequently cleared, fragmenting the environment and causing species to perish.

Also, agriculture has a significant environmental impact, contributing to climate change and global warming. It is responsible for about 20% of all greenhouse gas emissions due to the usage of fertilizers, pesticides, soil, land, water, and electricity. And wine production is no exception; cultivating grapes and converting them into wine also contributes to these consequences.

History and Future

Grape production is closely linked to climate and weather
Grape production is closely linked to climate and weather | Image Credit – Wikimedia Commons

History has demonstrated that the small climatic zones where winegrapes are grown are particularly vulnerable to climate change and long-term climate change. While observed warming over the last fifty years appears to have primarily benefited the quality of wine grown around the world, projections of future warming at the global, continent and wine region scales are likely to have both beneficial and detrimental effects, potentially opening new areas to viticulture and increasing viability, or severely limiting the ability to grow grapes and produce quality wine adequately.

Overall, the estimated rate and extent of future climate change will likely have a wide range of possible impacts on the wine industry, including increased pressure on increasingly scarce water supplies, additional changes in grapevine phenological timing, further disruption or alterations of balanced composition and flavor in grapes and wine, territorially changes in varieties grown, necessary shifts in regional wine styles, and spatial alteration in viable grape varieties.

Conclusion

Although wine is not necessary for human survival, it is a significant result of human inventiveness. Like all agricultural activities, Grapes are heavily reliant on and closely linked to climate and weather. Though grapes are grown worldwide, premium winegrape production occurs in particular climate zones. “Individual winegrape types have even smaller climate ranges…for optimum quality and production, this puts winegrape agriculture at greater risk than other crops from short-term climate variability and long-term climate changes.”

As an agricultural crop, Winegrapes and wine (especially premium wine), as an economic commodity, are both threatened by climate change as a constant companion of human growth and an integral component of human economic activity.

Ranjana Regmi is a highly energetic and responsible graduate with a master’s degree in Environment Science. She has a sound academic and professional record of exploring the world of climate change and its dynamics related to vegetation and wildlife. She has developed analytical skills during a few years of work exposure and scientific coherence. She is undoubtedly a bright star for ecosystem preservation with an immense empathy towards biodiversity.